In the middle of the jungle called the 'Sierra Madre' by native Mexicans, in a region called la Huasteca Potosina, there is a small village in the middle of the mountains. It is called Xilitla. Xilitla itself is not really special. It has very good food, even better coffee, and their traditional dance: The Huapango. But why are we talking about this again? Well, this beautiful and idyllic village was the place Edward James chose, in the 1950s, to make his home and ultimately make the place famous. From being a small rural village this place evolved into THE tourism destination in the Huasteca Potosina and eventually helped to promote tourism throughout the whole region of waterfalls, jungle & adventure.
WHO WAS EDWARD JAMES?
Edward James was a English aristocrat, born into a family of heaps of money, but he always kind of felt lost in the world. He did not enjoy the company of his family, did not enjoy England or working. The only things apparently making him happy were arts (in which he was really bad himself), writing (where he was also not the best), and buying art from people he deemed worthy. This is something he made his lifestyle. He became a full-time art dealer, traveler, and advocate for surrealistic art. After a pretty nasty break-up from his love Tilly Losch, an Austrian ballet dancer, he decided it was time to move to Mexico and went looking for Paradise. And that is how he ended up in Xilitla, made clear that this beautiful land is his paradise, and started designing his now so famous garden.
WHY VISIT THE SURREASLISTIC GARDEN?
The place that most tourists come here to visit is the 'Surrealistic Garden of Edward James' and even though it may seem like his castle, it was just his garden. This huge land he bought was covered in the most exotic plants he brought from his travels, all his pet animals, and cement structures that he himself designed in his dreams. Walking through his garden feels like being Alice who just entered Wonderland - and even better if you know the stories that inspired each of the structures.
HOW TO GET THERE?
When traveling to Xilitla most people decide to come to the Huasteca Potosina not only for one but several days so that the drive is worth it. You can either get here by car/ bus taking the toll route which goes from San Luis Potosi - Rio Verde - Ciudad Valles - Xilitla and takes you about 5h (around 8h from Mexico City) or you can take the mountain road from Queretaro - Jalpan - Xilitla which takes you around 7h but has a very scenic view.
If you don't know Mexico well play it safe and take the toll road by car and by bus choose the
executive buses from Omnibus de Mexico (NOT Ovnibus) and take the toll road because it is safer.
Once you are in the Huasteca the drive from Ciudad Valles is a relatively short one and filled with nice things to try. You should definitely stop for ice cream and also the local delicacy of cinnamon bread.
WHERE DO I STAY?
If you decide to just visit Xilitla we recommend staying in Xilitla. You can find a great variety of hotels here for any budget you desire. If you want to visit several places in the Huasteca Potosina, Ciudad Valles (the biggest city in this most natural area) has a great variety of hotels and also sustainable aldeas close by. From here you can either drive to Xilitla yourself or you can book a tour with any of the tour companies in Ciudad Valles. Our recommendation when doing a booked tour from Ciudad Valles is traveling with Ruta Huasteca as we worked very closely with them for several years and know their service is excellent.
HOW TO VISIT XILITA & THE GARDEN OF EDWARD JAMES?
The most important thing to know about the Garden of Edward James is, it has a restricted amount of people that can enter the place at once, which means especially in high season the place is packed all day and the line to get in is um to 6h waiting time. If you want to avoid waiting in line either buy your own tickets online (https://www.laspozasxilitla.org.mx/entradas.html) before going there or you can book a tour with local guides in advance and they will take care of this for you. If you are traveling in the low season or you want to be flexible you can drive to the entrance and just buy your ticket there.
Book a tour in the garden of Edward James with Xilitla Surealista. They are a great local guide
couple doing amazing tours and tell beautiful stories about the place. Also, they can take you to
additional places in the surroundings of Xilitla to make a complete day trip.
The Garden itself became really easy to navigate. There are signs everywhere to make sure that no one gets lost and that you get to see all the structures and the waterfall inside the Garden. To be honest, the garden is really lovely and if you like taking pictures it is an amazing spot to visit. But just bear in mind that most of the structures are so surrealistic that without a guide or an explanation they will just be concrete to you. Or what would you think do the structures you have seen so far mean?
WHAT DO THE STRUCTURES MEAN?
The artistic movement which influenced Edward James the most was Surrealism. The same movement also influencing artists such as Dali or Leonora Carrington. In Surrealism the art most of the time is not what it seems. In the surrealistic Garden of Edward James, he is clearly working out memories from his past (such as his unloving mother) and also his love interests ( his unfulfilled love Tilly Losch appears a lot in structures) The most know structure is the Bamboo Palace (the first picture) and this was basically his meditation and working place which only he had access to. The concrete bamboos on the sides of it were put there as a memorial for all the real bamboos that were cut down in the process of building it.
A lot of simples from the Illuminati, the masons, and different movements were used in his building so just keep an eye out for all the eyes, triangles, and stars you will find in the most unlikely places.
IS IT WORTH IT?
If you ask us we will always be more on the adventure side of tourism activities and always prefer the water, but: Xilitla is a truly magical place and was for me one of the motivations to stay in the Huasteca Potosina way longer than expected. So if you love adventure tourism and nature maybe this strange garden is just the motivation you need to visit the Huasteca in all its glory and beauty.
WHAT ELSE CAN I DO IN XILITLA / THE HUASTECA?
Here is a shortlist of some of the other activities you can do in the Huasteca. Most of them can be done on your own or with tour guides either from Ciudad Valles or Xilitla. If you want to get to know those activities a bit better as well make sure to check out our related blog posts or contact us to book your tour.
* Tamul waterfall
* Puente de Dios in Tamasopo
* Whitewater Rafting
* Rappeling a 50m or 100m waterfall
* waterfall jumping in Micos
* Visit the Waterfalls of El Salto, El Meco & Minas Viejas
* Visit the Sotano de las Golondrinas ( the deepest sinkhole in the world)